Many jurisdictions have been experimenting with comparatively new problem-oriented policing models to halt gun and gang violence among chronic young offenders. Originating in Boston, one approach is the focused deterrence strategy, also known as pulling levers. Its intentions are to affect the demeanor and surroundings of the serious offenders that are known as being at the center of the gun and gang problems. “The strategy seeks permanent elimination of the drug dealing with corresponding reduction in crime and improvement in the quality of life within the neighborhood.”( Corsaro et al., Oct. 2009, p. 2) The pulling levers plan of attack tries to deter the violence by making potential offenders believe that stern and swift consequences would follow such behavior. A major part of the pulling levers strategy is the delivery of a straightforward message to a small group of offenders, letting them know what behavior will not be tolerated and the consequences of that behavior. There are some key elements to the implementation of the pulling levers strategy. In addition, the pulling levers strategy has several advantages and disadvantages.
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When implementing the pulling levers strategy, several key elements have to be in place in order for it to be successful. These key elements give the pulling levers strategy an advantage over traditional policing. The first element is enlisting the help and support of the community. Residents have to feel that the actions of the officers are legitimate and that nonviolent youth are not being put at risk of being caught up in the justice system. The gathering of a multiagency enforcement group with the power to make decisions is the second element. The group should include police, probation, and parole, as well as state and federal prosecutors. Most often offenders are involved in a wide range of other crimes, which leaves them open for law enforcement to pull every lever of criminal justice intervention to crack down. There is “an enormous sanctioning power that the enforcement community could bring to bear against particular gangs and gang members.”(Kennedy, Spring 1997, p. 461) The third element is having an effective way of communicating with offenders. The multiagency group needs to show offenders the cause and effect of the pulling levers intervention. A direct message that violence will not be tolerated and every legal action will be taken to prevent such violence. The message can be delivered in a variety of ways, such as talking directly to the violent offenders on the streets or holding a public forum with a group of invited offenders. The multiagency group assumes that the message will be reverberated to other offenders through an informal communication network. Another key element is getting researchers involved in the process. Researchers can provide the interagency enforcement group with reliable data and performance evaluations of strategy’s progress. Research has shown that the pulling levers focused deterrence strategy to be useful in decreasing gun violence among young chronic offenders. The most known is the Boston Gun Project/Operation Ceasefire intervention. It was attributable to a significant decrease in homicides among youth, and nonfatal gun violence. Replications of the Boston Gun Project/Operation Ceasefire strategy have also shown reductions in gun violence.
There are two more very important advantages to implementing the pulling levers focused deterrence strategy. First, each gain of control applied increases the effectiveness of the pulling levers strategy. As the baseline level of violence begins to diminish, the multiagency working group’s response to new violence problems should increase. Second, it divides the general load of these offenses. For example, instead of patrol officers taking on the general load of deterring violent offenses the responsibility is shared with personnel from other agencies, such as probation, parole, and social service.
A challenge or disadvantage that the pulling levers strategy faces is its relatively small scientific evidence. It has been demonstrated in several replications that the pulling levers strategy works when dealing with young serious violent offenders, but it has yet to be implemented for other problems. Another problem is establishing trust with the community. One of the main steps toward implementing the pulling levers strategy is having the trust of the community. “Distrust corrodes the creative process that criminal justice agencies and community-based organizations are necessarily engaged in.”(as cited in Weisburd and Braga, 2007, p. 184) Without community trust and support the program will surely fail. Establishing trust can be very difficult in communities where racial tensions between the residents and the police are present. For example, in Boston “a new mechanism of police accountability was necessary in order to create trust that that new programs would be beneficial to the community” (as cited by Weisburd and Braga, 2007, p. 172) due to the perception of racism that existed. The community has to be able to hold law enforcement accountable for their actions and have to know that any actions taken by law enforcement will keep them safe and not cause further detriment to the community. “Safety is only one dimension on which citizens evaluate police actions”(Fagan, Summer-Autumn 2002, p. 139). Also, “lever-pulling is resource draining. There are many time-consuming aspects, including organizing and attending the meetings, ensuring compliance with the conditions of probation, and responding to a violent act.”(Chermack, Jan. 2008, p. 49)
In the end the pulling levers focused deterrence strategy depends on two pertinent components: how well the consequences are customized to the targeted offenses, and if the promises made to would-be offenders are kept. Unfulfilled promises and hollow threats from law enforcement can only lead to more problems with the offenders. In order to establish trust with the community and instill fear in the offenders all promises and threats should be carried out. Also, “without the political support of the community, the police cannot pursue an innovative enforcement strategy that targets truly dangerous youth at the heart of urban youth violence problems.” (as cited in Weisburd and Braga, 2007, p. 185)
2. How would you conduct a study to test whether pulling levers policing works? You must use qualitative, quantitative, or a mixed methods design. Detail the steps from start to finish including the measures you wish to test.
The goal of conducting a study to measure the pulling levers strategy is to help facilitate better decisions by law enforcement agencies. The study should help answer two questions: Was there a decrease in the problem and if so was it the result of the response imposed? By answering these questions law enforcement can decide whether to end the pulling levers strategy and focus resources elsewhere or to apply the response to other problems. The type of design used in this study is an experimental quantitative design . By using this type of study, changes can be evaluated mathematically before and after the implementation of the pulling levers strategy.
For example, the study being conducted wants to know if there was a decrease in youth homicides after the implementation of the pulling levers strategy. First, the study would take place in a large metropolitan city where youth homicides are above the national average, like Chicago, Illinois. The first set on analyses would be gathered from secondary information sources for demographic, policing, economic, and homicide patterns over a span of 2000-2009. This will be the main database used for the analysis. Official police data would be obtained from the Chicago Police Department’s statistical reports. Economical and demographic data would be gathered from the 2000 U.S. Census. Economic data would also be gathered from the U. S Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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From the information gathered the officers will found out who are the target offenders and areas with the highest youth homicide rates would be the communities used in the study. “Much crime-violent, drug, property, and domestic-is concentrated in certain neighborhoods, particularly poor minority neighborhoods.”(Kennedy, 1997, p. 459) Two teams of officers would be organized to patrol the beat in these two communities to implement the pulling levers strategy. This would take place over the span of three years. The officers using the pulling levers strategy would deliver a specific deterrence message to the youth offenders. In the case of the Boston Gun Project/Operation Ceasefire the message was delivered “in formal meetings with gang members; through individual police and probation contacts with gang members; through meetings with inmates of secure juvenile facilities in the city; and through gang outreach workers.”(Braga et al., 2001, p.5) Also, a multiagency law enforcement team would convene several meetings with serious gang offenders where the team would communicate its new standards for conduct, indicating that violence will not be tolerated. “Each offender has certain background characteristics….that interact with dynamic characteristics”(DeMichele and Paparozzi, Oct. 2008, p. 70). So when there is a violation of these rules, the multiagency law enforcement team would respond by using all available sanctions or levers to punish the offender. Those in which these sanctions were imposed on would become the source of discussion in subsequent meetings with potential would-be offenders.
“In terms of analysis, one of the most widely adopted statistical procedures in econometrics and criminal justice used to determine the impact of programs and public policies is time series analysis.”(Corsaro et al., Oct. 2009, p. 20) During the three years, analysis of the strategy’s impact would consist of a time-series design. Every month the strategy would be reassessed. A count of youth homicides would be conducted to see if the program is working properly. Also there would be a monthly count of calls for shots fired. Once the three-year implementation of the program has concluded the data for the youth homicides and calls for shots fired would be compared to the data before program implementation.
Key outcome variables would be the monthly number of youth homicide victims 21 or younger in the two targeted areas, and a monthly count of shots-fired citizen calls citywide. Also, youth homicide trends in would be compared with the youth homicide trends in other large U.S. cities. The implementation of the program would start in April, 2010 and end April, 2013. If the program was implemented successfully the time series analyses should show a reduction in monthly number of youth homicides from pretest to posttest. There should also be a significant decrease in calls for shots fired. With the successful implementation of the pulling levers strategy there should be an overall decrease in criminal activities with the communities and the city.
“An important question for policymakers to consider when deciding to implement a lever-pulling strategy is whether a working group is willing to commit the time and resources for effective follow-up.”(Chermack, Jan. 2008, p. 152) “Communities that suffer loss and injury from gun violence are most often those that are racially segregated and socially disadvantaged. Policing in this social context requires sensitivity to questions of legitimacy and procedural fairness.”(Fagan, Autumn-Summer 2002, p. 147)
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